Saturday, February 28, 2009


I can’t figure out why, but Filipinos have to be some of the worst ATM operators in the world. Every trip I make to the ATMs is a trial of my patience for the people I am supposed to be graciously helping. The largest cause is the old women, who, to save their lives, could not operate the machine. I’ve not tried using the ATM in Tagalog, but unless there are some serious mistranslations I think the directions are pretty straight forward. Eventually someone in line will get tired enough of the incompetent operator and take control of the machine for them. In the time that this one has gotten her money her replacement is already filed into line and is waiting to make everyone else’s day just a little bit slower.

The other major ATM issue is that no one remembers their account balance. Every transaction demands an account inquiry, which means two rounds of them trying to figure out which buttons to press. And do they save the print out of their balance? No, of course not. That wonderful piece of paper which documents exactly how much they have is immediately thrown away, thus enabling them to forget the balance by their next trip. Maybe it’s an American cultural trait to want to know exactly how much you have in the bank at all times but I would have thought that most people could track their money.

Besides the delay in getting my money I have little to complain about. The house is wonderful, school is nearly over, and I've found a counterpart for next year that I'm very excited to be working with. My next task is finding some reliable internet service for the house. While not essential to life, I think its worth the investment.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lame February

I've officially been away for over 6 months now!

Moving into the house pretty much wiped out my budget for the month. We had just enough money to buy enough furniture to get by, and enough utensils for the kitchen. There is one week one February remaining, and I will probably be totally broke by payday on March 1st. And while the house has drained me financially, it has also revived my spirits and given me new life that I didn't have before.

I understand why Peace Corps thinks that it is important for us to have a second host family stay in the Philippines. One of the challenges here is that local cultures are very powerful, and unique. What I see on this island may not carry through onto the next island. Because of this, our training island may not have the same culture as our permanent island. In exchange for the theoretical community integration we gain, we lose much of our agency for a total of 6 months. This leads to a debate I've been having for these last six months: how much of being an American do I really want to give up? The struggle here is between the Pinoy obsession with hospitality and the intense American individualism. I want my colleagues to be happy, which means letting them take care of me, but at the same time it was killing me to let them do so much with nothing in return.

With the house I now feel that I'm on stronger footing. Every time my supervisor gives me a little goody I'm able to counter with my own snack for her to try. I'm also using my language more. I spent so long trying to learn it then had to stay with a host family who wouldn't let me shop with them (and buying food is one of the few topics I can really expound on). I'm cooking again and learning a lot about how to prepare Filipino food. I messed up my first pot of rice, but I'm determined to get better.

Work is winding down for the summer. We'll have final exams in two weeks and then I'm all finished. This summer I'll hopefully be on the road for a month going from a 10 day conference to a really cool teacher training program. I'm interviewing this week and REALLY hope I make the cut. I've submitted a proposal to start up English club, and in the coming week will be requesting a seminar series. This seminar series is basically a year long compilation of my RA programs. It'll be boring for me to repeat the same topics I was doing with undergrads at UNC, but if they needed it in America then they really need it here.

Anyhow, sorry for the delay in updating. When you're poor and it gets dark at 6:30 then it really limits the type of interesting things one can do. Hope all is well with you. Comments welcome.